Posts tagged ‘journalism’

Friday, October 2, 2015

Leadership Styles: No Meeting without Substance

The Taipei Times compared Pope Francis‘ and Xi Jinping‘s leadership styles: the Chinese traveller to America was outwardly strong and internally weak, while the Roman-Argentinian was the exact opposite, the paper wrote in an online article on Tuesday. As a man who kept close to the public, was met with large crowds of people wherever he went and held Mass for almost 1 million people, the Pope had been a perfect example of soft power.

That was a bit like lauding a model mineworker for churning out tons of coal every day, and criticizing a goldsmith for not doing likewise – or vice versa.

Soft power abroad? Quite a number of Chinese people – especially Chinese people with some exposure to foreign cultures and hurt feelings – may long for it, and the Economist logically threatened Xi with something worse than criticism: neglect. But the politburo could care less. As long as the results are satisfactory – and as long as people at home can be made believe that Americans (not just at Boeing) could hardly wait for the Chinese visitor, everything is staying the desirable course.

But what are the results?

The two sides reached broad consensus and achieved a number of positive results, Ta Kung Pao (Hong Kong) wrote on Sunday:

According to a list published by the Chinese ministry of commerce on September 26, the major consensus and results reached by the two sides can be counted as 49 points, fitting into five big categories. Obama, on his own initiative, reiterated that America maintained the one-China principle and did not support “Taiwan independence”, “Tibet independence”, “Xinjiang independence”, and that America would not get involved in Hong Kong affairs.*)


According to Xinhua reports, Xi Jinping made important suggestions concerning the next stage of Sino-American relations, emphasizing the need to promote Sino-American relations that would always develop along the correct track. The two sides agreed to continue efforts to build Sino-American great-power relations of a new type. He [Xi] also emphasized that the Chinese nation was highly sensitive about matters concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He hoped that America would scrupulously abide by the relevant promises, not to support any action aimed at harming China’s unity and stability.


In this regard, Obama, on his own initiative, reiterated that America maintained the one-China principle, scrupulously abided by the principles of the three Sino-US Joint Communiqués, and that this position would not change. America did not support “Taiwan independence”, “Tibetan independence”, and “Xinjiang independence”, and would not get involved in Hong Kong affairs. This is the second time after denying American connection to Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central”, during the APEC summit last year, that Obama stated his position.*)


The 49 projects, results and consensus concern the five great fields of Sino-American great-power relations of a new type, practical bilateral cooperation, Asia-Pacific affairs, international affairs, and global challenges. Among these, nearly twenty negotiation points pertaining to financial and trade cooperation and the Sino-American Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), awaited by all circles, have made progress. The information published by the Chinese ministry of information pointed out that both the Chinese and American leader had reiterated that to reach a high-level investment agreement was “the most important economic issue between the two countries”, and that both sides had agreed to strongly push the negotiations and to accelerate the work.


The Chinese achievement list unequivocally mentions: “The two countries’ leaders reiterate that to reach a high-level investment agreement is “the most important economic issue between the two countries”, and both sides agree to “strongly push the negotiations and to accelerate the work, so as to reach a mutually beneficial, double-win, high-level investment agreement”.


China Institute of International Studies researcher Yang Xiyu says that this position [held by] the two heads of state was of historical significance, meaning that the world’s biggest developed and the world’s biggest developing country could, as fast as possible, achieve BIT, and that the world’s two biggest economic entities achieving BIT will raise the long-awaited effects, further solidifying the foundations of mutual trust in trade.



Within the list of achievements, several points of consensus have been reached concerning Sino-American network security cooperation, such as China and America agreeing that each country’s government must not engage in, or knowingly support, the stealing of intellectual property rights, including trade secrets, and other classified trade information. China and America committed themselves to jointly define and promote appropriate standards of international society conduct on the internet, and to establish a high-level, joint dialogue system between the two countries, to strike at cyber crime and related issues. A number of American experts said that this was an important outcome of this [Xi] visit, and that strengthening cooperation about network security was a really important field of work in Sino-American relations. Indiana University professor and high-level Council of Foreign Relations network security researcher David P. Fidler believes that the two countries’ having achieved this consensus is “of major significance, and welcome news”.


The two sides will also strengthen anti-corruption cooperation, strengthen high-speed rail cooperation, strengthen cultural exchange cooperation, and reach consensus in reaction to global challenges, broaden practical cooperation on bilateral, regional and global levels, and manage and control differences and sensitive issues in a constructive manner, continuously achieving new positive results.


A benevolent label for these outcomes could be progress, and an accurate one would be unverifiable progress. It’s sort of obvious that Washington and Beijing wouldn’t issue a snafu statement at the end of the talks. What Beijing might consider a real achievement, however, is the prevention of an exchange of sanctions in the wake of the “network security”, i. e. hack-and-spy, controversies. That doesn’t go without saying – news coverage during late summer pointed to a chance that this could happen.

Hong Kong website Fenghuang (or Ifeng), in an article on September 22, attributed much of the success in defusing the conflicts to a visit by a delegation to Washington from September 9 to 12:

China attaches great importance to Sino-American relations and their future development, and does not ignore the concrete problems that occupy America.


From September 9 – 12, politburo member and the central committee’s political and judicial committee secretary Meng Jianfu visited America in his capacity as Xi Jinping’s special envoy, together with [a delegation of] responsibles at offices for public security, the judiciary, network communication, etc.. He had talks with secretary of state John Kerry, homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, national security adviser Susan Rice, and other central [US] authorities, to exchange views about cyber crime and other outstanding problems, and to achieve important consensus. Meng Jianzhu’s trip broke with old habits. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China’s diplomacy has become more direct and more practical.

9月9日至12日,中共中央政治局委员、中央政法委书记孟建柱以 习近平特使身份,率公安、安全、司法、网信等部门有关负责人访问美国,同美国国务卿克里、国土安全部部长约翰逊、总统国家安全事务助理赖斯等核心部门举行 会谈,就共同打击网络犯罪等突出问题深入交换意见,达成重要共识。中央政法委书记作为特使,打破以往惯例,习近平治下的中国外交更加直接务实。

That, and some more soothing soundbytes from Beijing, appeared to have had their effect on Washington, suggests Fenghuang:

On September 16, Obama made remarks about cyber security again, but according to Reuters, America will not impose sanctions on so-called “cyber attacks” before Xi Jinping’s visit, and maybe not afterwards either.


After all, the main goal of the Obama administration had been to put pressure on Beijing, and to address domestic complaints, the Fenghuang article believed.

What looks credible – because it’s said to be long-established practice anyway – is that whatever consensus was indeed there between Washington and Beijing had been reached before Xi Jinping even set foot on American soil.

When he reached the American West Coast from Beijing, he meant business, not soft power – although there’s probably something charming to a 300-aircraft order form, at least among the stakeholders. The traditional microcosms were also conscientiously cultivated, even if Winston Ross of Newsweek was not convinced:

[Xi Jinping’s] handlers, who had corralled me and the reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times for the previous hour in anticipation of this exchange, apparently assumed we all spoke Mandarin. The Times reporter shot me a bewildered look. I shrugged. Xi said something to Oregon Governor Kate Brown that she found hilarious. We asked for a transcript of his remarks. We were not given one.

That occasion, Xi’s first stop – i. e. the meeting with American governors and Chinese provincial governors -, wasn’t (much) about substance, Ross alleged. He could have known better, even without translation: maintaining contacts between many layers of business and politics – not just the top echelons – is both a Chinese move to keep contacts going even if top-level relations between China and another country should deteriorate. Besides, while Confucius Institutes and other means of  indoctrination soft power may face some scrutiny at federal or central governments of democratic countries, regional authorities may lack the resources that such scrutiny would require.

Chinese central leaders waste no time with unsubstantial meetings. They waste no time with soft-power ambitions either. It’s the technology, stupid.



*) VoA has a somewhat different take on this: according to their newsarticle on Wednesday, Obama referred to both the Three Joint Communiqués, and the Taiwan Relations Act, and that had been the only public remarks made about Taiwan during Xi’s state visit in Washington. Ta Kung Pao omitted the mention of the TRA.



» Joint Press Conference, White House, Sept 25, 2015
» Six-point proposal, Xinhua, Sept 25, 2015


Friday, August 28, 2015

“People’s Daily” on Russian-Western Propaganda Competition (April 2015)

The following is “old news”, a People’s Daily online article from April this year, but I think it will continue to matter. Hence the following translation. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

I have some thoughts of my onw about what is being said in the article – and I can’t confirm the accuracy of what its authors wrote. It’s a mere translation, for reference, and maybe for later use — JR

Main Link: International Viewpoint: Europe, America and Russia measuring their Strengths in the International Public Opinion Arena

Source: April 10, 2015, People’s Daily / People’s Daily online. European correspondent Ren Yan, U.S. correspondent Chen Lidan, Russia correspondent Lin Xuedan, People’s Daily / People’s Daily online, April 10, 2015

Picture: “Russia Today” international news agency organizing a video link concerning the Ukraine crisis – photo by our correspondent Lin Xudan

“今日俄罗斯”国际新闻通讯社日前就乌克兰危机问题进行视频连线。 本报记者 林雪丹摄

The European Union has decided to formulate a plan for the dissemination of information on their Riga summit in May, including mainly the preparation of a Russian-language television station or radio station and similar Russian-language media, to counter the growing Russian influence in international public opinion. Not long ago, American foreign secretary John Kerry acknowledged in a sub-committee session of the Senate that Russia had been successful in international communications. There are Russian scholars who believe that Russian media are in advantage in their response to the Ukraine crisis, making European countries feel uneasy, with the pattern of international public opinion undergoing new changes.


The EU – Launching a “counterpropaganda war'” against Russia


A European External Action Service official recently confirmed to this reporter that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, is heading a team which is wildly beating gongs and drums to devise an action plan specifically targeted at Russia. The plan is scheduled to be finished before the end of June. The plan includes preparations for a Russian-language television station or radio station, transmitting to citizens of former Soviet republics, people of Soviet-republic ancestry, and to Russia.


At the beginning of this year, several European countries, including Britain, Denmark, Latvia, and Estonia, called for the establishment of a Russian-language television or radio station to launch a “counterpropaganda war” at Russia. Danish foreign minister Martin Lidegaard said that Russia was actively conducting propaganda and [successfully] managed public opinion, but the EU had sufficiently reacted to this threat. He believed in a need for a long-term response mechanism [may be, but doesn’t have to be the term actually used or meant by the former foreign minister or the reporting journalist, but my take of 应对机制 during translation – JR], i. e. the establishment of a Russian-language television station and other mass media, and broadcasting news in Russian very frequently. Russian deputy foreign minister Aleksey Meshkov  believes that this activity by a number of European countries and their advocacy of the concept of free speech are counterproductive. He says that Russia has respected the principle of freedom of speech all the way, however, Europe is doing the exact opposite.


An article published by a mainstream website, “European Developments” [“欧洲动态”], believes that thirty years ago, Russia had been on the defensive in the propaganda war with the EU. At the time, the EU had strong propaganda organs, such as Radio Free Europe, Deutsche Welle, and other media, incessantly broadcasting to Russian listeners in their language. Afterwards, the EU gradually cut down its spending on the propaganda war, and by now, Russia has won the advantage. Two EU diplomats who gave interviews [or an interview] to that website [i. e. 欧洲动态] dispiritedly said that the EU was losing in the propaganda war with Russia and that now, the unfavorable situation needed to be turned around as quickly as possible.


America – Doubts in the U.S. International Broadcasting Reform Bill


The US Broadcasting Board of Governors members include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe / Free Asia and other broadcasters. The media under its flag are broadcasting to 125 countries and regions in 65 languages. A questionnaire survery of thirty senior US diplomacy officials and experts showed that America is currently losing out to Russia’s propaganda war. They believed that the key problem was insufficient government funding, with the amount spent being only one tenth of what Russia was spending. The way the Voice of America developed was indicative of the overall trend among America’s foreign broadcasting media. In 2008, the Voice of America’s Russian broadcasts, with a history of sixty years, were terminated and transferred to the internet, but the Voice of America was apparently unable to get into step with the rhythm of the internet, and a lot of old news has been found on their [Russian-language] website. On social media, no matter if the number of fans or sharing is the issue, the numbers are far behind the U.S. Department of State, a non-news organization. Many former journalists and employees of the Voice of America believe that the Broadcasting Board of Governors as the mainly responsible body [for running VoA] must assume considerable responsibility for its bad work.


During the past ten years, the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ mission has been doubted. In 2014, US House of Representatives foreign relations  committee chairman Ed Royce submitted the United States International Communications Reform Act, which was adopted. The bill positioned the Voice of America as an important tool for American public diplomacy, demanding that the focus of coverage be on propagandizing [or promoting] American foreign policies, and planning for the replacement of the Broadcasting Board of Governors by a United States International Communications Agency.


Currently, the bill remains at the stage of discussion within the US Congress, but the road of propaganda designed by the bill has already drawn criticism within America. The “Washington Post” worried in an editorial that this kind of reform could weaken the credibility of the Voice of America’s coverage. And the renowned “Foreign Affairs” magazine said that if this bill was passed and implemented, America’s foreign broadcasting organ would completely lose its independent character and become a White House mouthpiece.


Russia – in the process of building a strong “media aircraft carrier”


In the Ukraine crisis, Russian media, represented by “Russia Today”, have caught a lot of attention. “Russia Today’s” first editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan says that the goal of “Russia Today” is “to present an unbiased image of Russia” and to provide coverage of world news from a Russian point of view. According to some analysts, it isn’t only “Russia Today”, but all of Russia’s media circles who are participating in the efforts of building a strong “media aircraft carrier”.


“Russia Today”, established in 2005, currently operates channels in English, Russian, Spanish and Arabic, and has opened French and German websites. Among these, the English broadcasts have established two separate channels, including “Russia Today International” and “Russia Today America”. More than 100 English-speaking reporters provide reports on a global scale. High-quality, ingenious reports have led to 700 million viewers in more than 100 countries, not only earning “Russia Today” gains in viewing rates, but also recognition from peers in the international [broadcasting] industry. In 2012, “Russia Today’s” “Occupy Wall Street” program won the 美国国际电视包装设计大奖 [this apparently refers to a a bronze Promax/BDA Global Excellence award], in 2013, “Russia Today” defeated CNN News network, Sky News, and Al Jazeera, winning the Monte Carlo Television Festival award.

成立于2005年的“今日俄罗斯”现有英语、俄语、西班牙语和阿拉伯语频道,并开设了法语和德语网站。其中,英语播报单独分设了两个频道,包括“今日俄罗 斯”国际和“今日俄罗斯”美国。有超过100名英语记者在全球范围提供报道。高质量兼具独创性的报道令“今日俄罗斯”在全球100多个国家拥有7亿观众, 不仅为“今日俄罗斯”赢得了收视率,还获得了国际同行的高度认可。2012年,“今日俄罗斯”的“占领华尔街”节目获得美国国际电视包装设计大 奖;2013年,“今日俄罗斯”击败美国有线电视新闻网、天空新闻和半岛电视台,获得“蒙特卡洛电视节大奖”。

To capitalize on “Russia Today’s” experiences of success, the Russian government decided to integrate the state media, to increase the effectiveness of foreign broadcasting. At the end of 2013, the Russian government invested huge amounts to reorganize RIA Novosti newsagency and the “Voice of Russia” into the “Russia Today” international news agency [aka Rossiya Segodnya -this means “Russia Today”, but the “Russia Today” television station described in the translated article so far is a separate organization. I’ll translate the news agency’s name as Rossiya Segodnya from here, to avoid confusion]. Rossiya Segodnya news agency’s deputy editor-in-chief, Pavel Andreyev, explained to this reporter that the agency combined the two state-owned media’s correspondent offices abroad, and is using streamlined resources to gradually increase the number of reporting bureaus, and embarked on creating twelve news gathering centers all over the world.

借鉴“今日俄罗斯”成功的经验,俄政府决定整合国有媒体,提升对外传播的有效性。2013年底,俄政府斥巨资将俄新社、“俄罗斯之声”广播电台两大媒体重 组为“今日俄罗斯”国际新闻通讯社。该通讯社副总编辑安德烈耶夫向本报记者介绍,在布局上,新通讯社合并了两家媒体原有的国外记者站,并利用精简的资源进 一步扩充了记者站数量,还着手在全球组建12个新闻采编中心。在内容上,通讯社开通了15条新闻专线,网站新闻供应量显著增加,实现了对全球新闻的无时差 报道。同时,在原有基础上增设近20个语种的广播。

Gusev, a researcher from the Russian Institute of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, said in an interview with this reporter that in the media information war concerning the Ukraine crisis, Russia had significant advantages, making European countries feel uneasy, with the pattern of international public opinion undergoing new changes.


(People’s Daily online Brussels, Washington DC, Moscow reports)


“People’s Daily” (April 10, 2015, page 21)

《 人民日报 》( 2015年04月10日 21 版)



» EU launches operation, EurActiv, Mar 20, 2015
» Mythbusters, Newsweek, Mar 20, 2015
» EU set to fight back, BBC, Mar 18, 2015
» Not attractive enough, ECFR, Jan 20, 2015
» Mindless competition, Jan 6, 2015
» The Russians do propaganda, Nov 25, 2014


Friday, August 28, 2015

Investigations at “People’s Daily” Online: two Executives, Leading Editors “taken away”

China’s supreme procurate’s website reported on Friday that Henan procurate has opened investigations (立案侦查) concerning People’s Daily Online director and former chief editor  Liao Hong (廖玒), and board member and deputy director Chen Zhixia (陈智霞), reports the BBC Mandarin service online.

The online service should not be confused with the paper edition of People’s Daily.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), quoting a public profile, Liao was a founding member of the People’s Daily website. He had worked for the paper and its digital department for 19 years after graduating from the Beijing University of Technology. Both he and Chen had been taken away for investigation, the SCMP wrote on Thursday. The Hong Konger paper also writes that Liao had been under a lot of pressure after lending support to the publication of  “Under the Dome”, a documentary about air pollution in China, on the website.

According to the BBC, official confirmation of the investigations came after Caixin Online (财新网) and Southern Weekend (南方周末) had already quoted numerous sources saying that Kiao and Chen had been taken away for investigations.

The BBC also quotes news people who saw links between these two investigations and the case of Xu Hui (徐辉), then deputy editor in chief at People’s Daily online. Xu was put under investigation in May this year, and was reportedly accused or suspected of blackmail, and of taking bribes from people who had become subject to supervision by public opinion (舆论监督). The accusations might come across as an accusation similar to one made against former Central Military Commission vice chairman Guo Boxiong, who had been accused of 用职务便利, i. e. taking “advantage of his job”, or office. In the context of supervision by public opinion, it would refer to advantages from the job of an influential journalist. Concerning Xu Hui, Radio Free Asia (RFA) was rather specific about what accusations like these could mean, citing allegations that Xu had approached various companies and threatened to publish negative news stories about them if they didn’t buy advertising on the site.

All that said and written, the “investigations” may just as likely be mere tools in an inofficial-official campaign against critical journalism, be it in the context of the “Under the Dome” documentary, or in any other context.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Some of this Week’s Links: Heroes and Ultra-Vulgar Butchers

1. “All of them are Heroes” – a Soundbyte and its Story

A Hong Kong television station had a small scoop of sorts, or so it seems to feel to both the station, and to Xinhua. They [update: the HK tv station, that is] conducted an apparent surprise interview with Chinese chief state councillor Li Keqiang. This is how Xinhua reported the encounter, apparently on the same day.

According to the Weibo channel of Xinhua newsagency’s Xinhua Viewpoint program, chief state councillor Li Keqiang, on a visit to the injured at Tianjin Taida Hospital, was abruptly approached by a Hong Kong journalist who, using his cell-phone camera, asked minute questions about “unlisted firefighters”. The chief state councillor interrupted his walk and said that the active-service and non-active-service rescuers had all received training, were all fully aware that the fireground was dangerous, but had all left the danger to themselves. Their sacrifices are saddening us. All of them are heroes, and there are no “unlisted” heroes!


Unlisted apparently refers to contract firefighters.

The Nanfang also gave a description of the interview, and linked to the tv station’s video (edited or not, can’t judge that) of it. There seems to be nothing extraordinary about the interview by international standards, and the crucial soundbyte – that all of them are heroes, and there are no unlisted heroscomes at 1′ 14”. Li Keqiang also thanked the reporter “for asking this question and showing your concern for the injured”.

2. “Drawing Profits from selling Ranks and Titles (in Zhongmou)

Some estimates say that the number of rights lawyers has grown from just a handful to […] over a thousand, Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang write in a China Change post published on Wednesday. Going through a July-19 article by China News Service (CNS, 中国新闻社), linked to from the China Change article, you might get the impressoin that corruption charges may not only be politically motivated when brought against party flies or tigers, but they are also weapons in efforts to smear dissidents’ reputation. That may look pretty obvious anyway, but I’ve only become aware of it when reading

For the foreign, language-learning reader, the profitable thing about official lampoons like the one from CNS is that they usually come with some proverbs or classical references. It makes an – otherwise possibly unpleasant – treatise catchy, and helps to create the impression that the propaganda were handed out by trustworthy people.

A short taster from the CNS article:

According to police information, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Yu and other persons formed criminal gangs with Fengrui Law Office as a platform. Since July 2012, they have plotted in more than forty cases and incidents, waving sensational flags about “rights”, “the public good”, etc., seizing the opportunity of becoming famous and of drawing profits from Zhongmou.


Liu Sixin, administrative assistant at said law office, explains that Zhou Sifeng usually likes to recruit three kinds of people: those who dare to speak out, those who dare to act, and those who dare to hype issues, like “ultra-vulgar butcher” Wu Gan and Zhou himself. The second kind is people who hail from the petitional system and from the media, such as Huang Liqun, Xie Yuandong, etc.. And then there are so-called “die-hard” lawyers like Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang who like to be defenders in sensitive incidents.


The China Change post lists forteen rights lawyers and their stories.

3. Farting Snakes

And to end on a super-vulgar note today: did you know that a snake has an ass?

Now you know. Happy weekend.


» Crackdown intensifies, CS Monitor, July 13, 2015


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Economist: CCP is “Plundering History to justify its Present-Day Ambitions”

Granted, this may become the first time after World War 2 that China commemorates the occasion with a big military parade, rather than with a solemn remembrance ceremony. But did it really take this upcoming September event to make The Economist aware that the Communist Party is plundering history to justify its present-day ambitions? That the Xi leadership is showing a blatant disregard for the fact that it was not the Chinese communists who bore the brunt of the fighting against Japan, but their sworn enemies, the nationalists (or Kuomintang) under Chiang Kai-shek? This is by far the most serious criticism of Beijing that I have seen in the Economist ever since I started reading about a decade ago. And it has been overdue.

To be clear: the Economist has been critical in the past, too. When China (apparently) slowed exports of rare-earth minerals to Japan after the arrest of a Chinese crawler crew by the Japanese coastguard, the paper referred to that as an especially nefarious turn. But that was at a time of open crisis. The real problem isn’t that there are occasional outbursts of Chinese wrath against once criminal or now obstinate neighbors. The problem is the daily mass indoctrination in Chinese schools and media.

The German press also appears to have become more critical. Random choice: “Doubtful of China”, a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung headline a week ago, on August 12. The short leader on page one suggested that

for years, the Chinese government has marketed itself that successfully that one almost believed it could walk on water. Whatever unpleasant things it would do in terms of human rights, the economy worked out, and that was/is the real bottom line for many abroad. For a few weeks now, the high-gloss storefront is getting scratches. Another rather big one has been added by the Chinese central bank now. It has devalued the national currency as much as never in two decades, which is being analyzed on page 15.

In short, the paper quotes “observers” who doubt that the devaluation is a step towards liberalizing the exchange-rate regime, and hence a concession to IMF demands.

The quarrels about Beijing distorting economic competition isn’t new. But how the CCP is distorting history have hardly been a regular issue in the mainstream press. All the same, such views, publicized in no uncertain terms, should be welcomed and encouraged by all people who believe that truthfulness about history is important.

Truthfulness also requires self-criticism. Yes, Beijing is pretty good at selling itself and its record, as noted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But most of the successful propaganda work abroad hasn’t been done by Chinese propagandists or “public diplomats”. It has been done by the international press. And if China’s economy should become the big economic attraction again, be it for an unlikely return to double-digit growth rates or for any other reasons, expect the foreign adulation of the incredible strategists to resume.



» Do markets determine …, M. Pettis, Aug 18, 2015
» CCP should face history honestly, July 7, 2015
» China Cultural Year 2012, March 1, 2012
» Message to a Barbarian, June 26, 2011
» Fragility of Truth, Economist, Oct 8, 2009
» Covert business lobby, Project Censored, 1996/2010


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Guessing Games: “Don’t wait for Beidaihe”

— Note: the following is old news: it’s about articles that appeared during the past two weeks and a half. —

Big sensation? Or was the Xinhua article, published on August 5, making fun of the international press in general, or the South China Morning Post (SCMP) in particular? The headline read Liao Wang Think Tank: Don’t wait for it, Beidaihe won’t happen, and it seemed to refer to an article in Hong Kong’s English-language paper, published on July 30.  The headline, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the near-tradtitional gathering of China’s top leaders has been cancelled. But it does suggest that Beidaihe is no longer the place where the big decisions are made: after all, Chinese politics had gradually become more transparent and “regular”, especially after the 18th National Congress of the CCP (i. e. the election of the current leadership) and the Eight Provisions (or Eight Rules). Hadn’t the politburo met on July 20 and 30? One could well expect that issues like the 13th 5-year plan, economic policies, striking the tigers (打老虎, put into quotation marks in the article, and referring to the ostensible fight against corruption among leading cadres) had been discussed there time and again – so what would be the use to go to Beidaihe? “Is it necessary? Is it likely [to happen]?”

Obviously, Beidaihe doesn’t need to be the place where big decisions are made. But it may still be the place. While the CCP is indeed fairly transparent when it comes to the publication of its final decisions, the decision-making process remains as murky as ever.

Maybe that’s why the Xinhua/Liaowang author found speculation about the time and agenda of the Beidaihe meetings so funny. The Economist also got a mention for suggesting that [n]ormally the meetings start in the second week of August and run for seven days or so. This year they started a week early […]. However, the Xinhua article didn’t mention that the Economist referred to reports in overseas Chinese media.

And, as usual, the sources weren’t specifically mentioned, either, let alone linked to, its sources, even though both the SCMP and the Economist article were available online. Maybe they were running counter to the Liaowang author’s message to his readers that Chinese politics had become “more transparent”.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 1950 – 2015

The New York Times carried an article on Tuesday, describing the aftermath of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche‘s (Tibetan: བསྟན་འཛིན་བདེ་ལེགས་; Chinese: 丹增德勒仁波切) death in a prison in Chongqing. Tenzin Delek had been in prison since 2002/2003, and there’s a Wikipedia entry about his background and story. The authorities reportedly turned down a request by Tenzin Delek’s sister to preserve the body for 15 days as demanded by Tibetan Buddhist tradition. An autopsy, or any chance of one, isn’t mentioned in the reports.

Amnesty International published a report on Tenzin Deleg’s case in September 2003, less than a year after his arrest, citing doubts that detention and trial had been up to standard.

According to a Reuters report, on July 16, Sichuan Province’s propaganda department said it was unaware of the case, and an official who picked up the telephone at the provincial police department said she had not heard of the case.

Three days later, on July 19, the BBC‘s Mandarin service quoted Xinhua newsagency as saying that Tenzin Delek had died of a heart attack:

Because Tenzin Delek frequently refused medical treatment or medication, he died from heart disease.


The BBC also quoted Tenzin Delek’s sister (Chinese name: Zhuoga or 卓嘎) as saying that the authorities had not given her an explanation about the cause of her brother’s death, which had added to her doubts.

According to Xinhua, as quoted by the BBC, a prison warden had found Tenzin Delek on July 12, and that the prisoner had stopped breathing during an afternoon nap. According to the Xinhua report, he died in an intensive care unit, an hour after having been found.

Reacting to a call from Washington to investigate Tenzin Delek’s death, Huanqiu Shibao reportedly wrote that America should forget about dragging another “criminal” out of prison, and described Washington’s attention to human rights issues as a method to maintain self-confidence while facing China’s rise.

The actual wording of the Huanqiu article can be found here.

The New York Times article mentioned at the beginning of this post also reported that Tenzin Delek’s sister and niece were taken away from a restaurant in Chengdu by police officers on Friday, and hadn’t been seen since (i. e. not by July 21). It doesn’t become clear to me if this is the same sister in both cases. The name of the 52-year-old arrested sister (Dolkar Lhamo) sounds different from the one mentioned earlier in the article.

Tsering Woeser has collected a number of articles concerning Tenzin Delek this month.



» 王力雄:丹增德勒求“法”记, Woeser, July 26, 2015


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

JR’s Press Review (Europe): Resignation, Self-Pity, Defiant Pride, Public Diplomacy

A wave of hatred against Germans is rolling through Europe, writes Germany’s Die Welt, a (comparatively) conservative paper. In an article published on Sunday, its European correspondent calls on Germans to learn from Britain how to handle hatred from others. It doesn’t work, the correspondent suggests, “to pay still more” (Wir können uns also zerknirscht an die Brust schlagen, weil wir nicht noch viel mehr bezahlen).

Hang on – how much have we paid yet? How much have we earned from Euroland? And who is we?

Obviously, no propaganda will work without some aspects of truth, but it has to be far-fetched if you want to argue like Die Welt: for example, it is true that the storm in “social media” about Angela Merkel comforting a teenage refugee, but keeping to her party line all the same, was silly. (But why mention this when Greece is the topic?)

It is also correct to point out that other countries welcome a German scapegoat so as to deflect criticism on failed policies at home.

But to be kind of convincing, Die Welt shouldn’t talk the same talk as those it tries to criticize. Yes, painting Germany as “nazi”, as is done by some of Germany’s critics, is propaganda. But what hurts German elites is hardly the crude message itself. You don’t become a top politican or press man if you take this kind of stuff to heart. The effectiveness of the message is their real problem. Die Welt is now painting Germans who keep to the – once near-unanimous – idea that a European Union must be a union of equals as wussies who can’t handle their world-war-two guilt complex. That move is as stupid as painting Wolfgang Schäuble with that moustache.

The Tagesspiegel reminds its readers of a message by German federal president Joachim Gauck from the Munich Security Conference in 2014, when Gauck allegedly said that Germans needed to “grow up” (Erwachsenwerden). That too was in a different context – more military engagement. Gauck didn’t even talk about growing up. But the word was used in many press interpretations of the speech, and the Tagesspiegel appears to have become used to it.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung tries a kind of constructive approach: “How Germany can improve its image”. More public diplomacy is needed, the paper quotes experts. More and more countries would otherwise distance themselves from the concept of a united Europe.

Maybe some public diplomacy at home wouldn’t hurt, for a start. If you have one foreign, and one domestic message, it won’t work either way. The problem is that clichés, rather than facts and causes, rule the debate. To some extent, this kind of press may actually satisfy the readership, or at least meet an existing demand. But above all, it saves the press from the need to discuss real issues.



Swiss paper 20 Minuten (online) linked to all the above three German press articles yesterday, plus the Guardian, and La Stampa. “Social media” get a mention. 20 Minuten tries to keep neutral, calling the Hashtags #BoycottGermany and #ThisIsACoup “more poisionous” than the British and Italian press samples, but also referring to some German reaction patterns as resignation, self-pity, and defiant pride.



» Growth all but impossible, M Pettis, Febr 25, 2015



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